The problem became especially troubling when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce caught the injury bug — the C's were old, they were banged up, and they were getting run into the ground by teams that on paper, looked like they had no chance.
That hasn't been the case this year. KG has two good knees, The Truth is in tip-top shape, and the C's are showing all the young whippersnappers who's boss.
Except last time, those pesky Philadelphia 76ers made things a little difficult for them.
The C's survived a scare in Philly on Dec. 9, winning 102-101 as KG got a layup on the final possession off of a Rajon Rondo lob. But, the Sixers were aggressive all night long, using their energy and quickness to create open shots. They shot 45.7 percent as a team against the C's (37-for-81), a cut above the Celtics' average of 43.5 percent against.
To beat the Sixers in Wednesday's rematch, the Celtics will have to contain their young, athletic scorers.
Elton Brand shouldn't be a problem. Stick KG or Shaquille O'Neal on him, and he's effectively neutralized, but some of the Sixers' younger, less heralded players might be tougher covers.
Jodie Meeks went off for 19 points against the Celtics last time. He shot a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams poured in 16 each off the bench. Jrue Holiday didn't have an efficient night (4-for-13), but he was able to drive the lane with ease.
Those guys were scoring because they're athletes — they got open too quickly for the C's defenders to pick them up. They ran around screens, they cut across the baseline and around the 3-point arc, and they were just constantly moving. The C's had a little trouble keeping up.
Especially without Rajon Rondo, the standout youngster of the Celtics' defense, the C's will be hard-pressed to find athletic defenders, but against these Sixers, that's exactly what they need.
The Celtics are clearly the better team, as evidenced by their record (22-4, versus just 11-17 for the Sixers), but the Sixers are younger, they're healthier, and on a good night, they're capable of pulling off an upset. If not for a well-timed Rondo lob pass, we might have already learned that two weeks ago.